3 color strategies to create a killer brand palette

how to create a kick-ass brand color palette

Choosing colors can be hard if you aren't a designer.  Are your brand colors your favorite colors?  Is there a set of rules for what to include?  Although there is no quick and easy set of rules for designing your palette, there are several ways to help you narrow down the choices and create a balanced palette.  Here are three rules to help you get started.


1.  Make sure your palette is useful.

Beauty only goes so far.  You'll need a color for fonts (something dark, perhaps black or deep plum).  You'll also want to include a light color.  If you're using seasonal color theory (like I teach students in The Brand Studio) you most likely will not use a full black or full white unless your brand falls into the 'winter season. From there. choose your 'fun' colors.  If you brand is all neon, it's not functional.  You need a basic dark and light to create a professional color palette that can be used for text-driven and image driven brand pieces. 


2.  Use traditional palette methods.

There are several ways to build color palettes.  Once you have your dark and light basics, you'll want to add color.  Although I prefer to do it in a more organic, freeform style of choosing colors, if you need more set rules, a traditional method can really help you narrow your options.  

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meaning: using one color in various shades of light and dark
example: mint green, lettuce green + sage green

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meaning: uses colors that fall side by side on the color wheel
example: blue, turquoise + green

complementary palette


meaning: uses colors that fall directly opposite on the color wheel
example: blue + orange

triadic palette example


meaning: 3 colors that fall equally apart on the color wheel
example: violet, green + tan


3.  Use the squint test.

To make sure that your palette has enough variation, try 'the squint test'.  To test your palette simply squint at it and see if they are all the same value.  You want your palette to feel complex and dynamic. If all of your colors fall into the same range, they will not pass the squint test.  You'll want lights and darks even in your 'fun' colors.

Test yourself!  One palette above does NOT pass the squint test.  Can you see which one?


see the strategies live + in color


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